Boxing

4 Punches Perfected! Learn to Strike the Way Boxers Do, Part 2

Punch No. 3: Lead Hook

The boxing lead hook is a more or less rounded punch made with the leading hand. It whips around to the side of the opponent’s face or midsection, then snaps back.

The hook draws power from translation, but this takes place in a manner unlike the jab or cross. Because the punch hits sideways, translation in the hook occurs when the bodyweight shifts from the side of the leading leg to the side of the rear leg. Power is added as the hips and shoulders rotate in the direction of the blow.

Lead hook to the chin

Extension in the hook mainly involves the flexion of the shoulder, with a quick snap to finish the sequence. The arm and wrist straighten only enough to contact the target, adding little power but whipping out from the shoulder loosely and quickly, and tensing only at the moment of impact to provide a solid connection between the fist and the entire weight of the body. It lands with the palm facing you.

Punch No. 4: Rear Uppercut

Boxing’s rear uppercut is a rounded punch made with the rear hand. It drives forward and upward at the opponent’s face or midsection, then snaps back.

In the uppercut, translation is forward — as with the jab and cross — but to this is added a shifting of the bodyweight to the leading leg. This is the opposite of what takes place with the hook.

Rear uppercut

The uppercut also involves an upward shifting of the bodyweight, driven by a short, quick straightening of the knees. This is a lot of weight shifting; it accounts for at least some of the power of the uppercut — less when the target is closer and more when it’s farther away. Most of the power comes from the rotation of the hips and shoulders in the direction of the punch. Then extension tops off the sequence.

The arm and wrist straighten only enough to contact the target, adding little power but whipping out from the shoulder loosely and quickly, and then tensing at the moment of impact to provide a solid connection between the fist and the body. It lands with the palm facing you.

Punch Training

These four punches of boxing are best learned with the help of a partner or trainer with focus gloves. The partner holds the gloves at head height but just outside your range. You take a short step forward to deliver the jab to the glove opposite the hand you’re using. For example, hit the left glove if you’re jabbing with your left hand.

The partner checks your form, making sure that you don’t “telegraph” the punch, that you don’t drop your other hand from the guarding position, and that you return your jabbing hand to its guarding position and slide your rear foot forward to catch up with your body as soon as the punch is completed. Then he takes a small step backward, and the exercise is repeated, with you and your partner moving back and forth across the floor.

In the same fashion, the cross can be learned on the focus gloves. Again, you punch to the glove opposite the hand you’re using, and your partner checks your form. Then he takes a small step backward.

Hook training on a heavy bag

When learning the hook, your partner turns the glove inward so your punch lands while moving sideways. When learning the uppercut, he turns it downward so the punch lands while moving upward.

For boxers training for competition, learning to deliver punches only from the right or left stance may be sufficient, but a martial artist must be able to deliver them from both stances. As soon as you learn each punch on your strong side, change to your weak side and practice. Eventually, you’ll be able to deliver powerful punches with either hand.

All boxing gyms have mirrors. Use them to get feedback as you work to perfect your timing and form.

Getting Serious

When it comes to developing solid punches, there is no substitute for working on the heavy bag. Practice with the bag held stationary and with it swinging freely. Practice delivering the punches from a stationary position and while moving in, out, to the left, to the right, and up and down.

In all exercises, concentrate on breathing correctly. The sports maxim “breathe out on the power stroke” applies no less to boxing, and a sharp exhalation as you deliver each punch will put dynamite into it and make you less vulnerable to being hit in the midsection as you attack.

In all exercises, concentrate on focus. This is really more of an attitude than a technique. Cultivate the habit of hitting not just with your fist but with …

4 Punches Perfected! Learn to Strike the Way Boxers Do, Part 1

These days, everywhere you look, martial artists are incorporating basic Western-boxing techniques into their fighting repertoire. Although some traditional stylists have resisted this trend, there are many good reasons why it continues and why you should jump on board.

Having evolved in the laboratory of combat, boxing techniques are practical and effective. They’re deceptively powerful and rival even the powerhouse punches of classical karate in the force of their impact. They’re adaptable and combine gracefully with the strikes and kicks of the martial arts. Finally, they’re relatively easy to learn and apply even under the stress of competition or self-defense.

Lead jab

In boxing, the ability to hit hard doesn’t correlate to any particular body type. Knockout punchers come in all sizes and shapes. Although a few fighters seem to be naturals, for most people, boxing is a skill that must be learned. This means understanding and applying biomechanics, learning about how the body moves and generates power, and, of course, investing in plenty of practice.

Types of Movement

In studying how the body generates power, you’ll discover the importance of three types of movement. The first is the movement of the bodyweight as it shifts from one leg to the other in the direction of the action. This is essentially the movement we use to bump a heavy door open with our arm and shoulder. It’s called translation.

The second is the movement of the body as it twists around an imaginary line passing through the top of the head and down to the body’s center. This twisting is driven by the rear leg turning the hips and by the muscles of the trunk turning the shoulders. It’s called rotation.

The third is the movement of the wrist and elbow as they straighten, which is coupled with the flexion of the shoulder. It’s called extension.

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Effective punches must combine all three movements at the proper time. This requires that translation — inherently, the slowest movement — begin the sequence. Rotation, being faster, joins in a split second later. Extension, being the fastest, joins in last.

When all three movements take place quickly, with correct timing and with a solid connection of the fist to the bodyweight (what trainers call leverage), the punch has knockout power. Correct timing can be felt more easily than it can be seen. When everything comes together correctly, all three movements will reach their peak power at the moment of impact. Everything feels right.

Punch No. 1: Lead Jab

The first punch a boxer learns is the lead jab. It’s a good place to begin applying the principles of biomechanics discussed above.

The jab is a straight punch made with the lead hand. It fires directly out to the opponent’s face or midsection, then snaps directly back.

Most of the jab’s power comes from translation. It’s created by a small step forward with the front foot as the rear leg drives the body. This is why trainers say, “The jab comes from the rear foot.” The arm, relaxed at first, whips out from the shoulder and tightens for a split second at the moment of impact. By that time, the fist should face palm-down. It then snaps back to the starting position.

Power is added by rotation, a small but rapid twist of the hips and shoulders in the direction of the punch. To maximize it, the torso leans slightly to the side of the rear leg.

Rear cross

More power is added by extension, the rapid straightening of the arm and wrist and the flexion of the shoulder. The key to making this action effective is keeping the shoulder loose so it hangs back for an instant as the torso turns. Contrary to logic, the shoulder actually moves backward in relation to the body for an instant, effectively cocking the shoulder joint. Then, at the last moment, it flexes sharply, and the arm and wrist straighten to fire the jab out to the target. This snap of the shoulder is too quick to be seen, but it can be felt.

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A good jab is loose, well-timed and quick. The key lies in practicing until you get the feel of the punch, then practicing a lot more until it becomes second nature.

Punch No. 2: Rear Cross

The next punch is the rear cross. It’s a straight blow effected with the rear hand. Using the principles of biomechanics in the fullest possible manner, the cross fires directly out to the opponent’s face or midsection, than snaps back.

The …

“Judo” Gene LeBell vs. Boxer Milo Savage: America’s First MMA Fight

Editor’s Note: Decades before Royce Gracie donned his gi and choked out Ken Shamrock at the UFC 1, “Judo” Gene LeBell stepped into the ring to face boxer Milo Savage.

In this exclusive interview from the archives of Black Belt magazine, the legendary grappler reveals how the match went down and why it’s so important to be a well-rounded martial artist.

BLACK BELT: Would you call your match with Milo Savage America’s first MMA bout?

Gene LeBell: It was the first televised MMA match. It was billed as pitting a judo, karate and wrestling guy against the No. 5 light-heavyweight boxer. I was known mostly for judo because I’d won the Nationals a few times, but I’d also done boxing, wrestling, karate, taekwondo and kenpo, mixing them together before it was popular.


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BLACK BELT: Why were you chosen for the match?

Gene LeBell: A fellow who did kenpo karate, Ed Parker, a great teacher and a great human being, came to my school and said a guy named Jim Beck had called us “karate and judo bums” and offered $1,000 to anyone he couldn’t beat. The karate guys were emotional about it, and they had a big meeting. They wanted someone to fight Beck and decided on me. I said, “Why me? I’m not known as a karate or kenpo guy.” They said, “Yeah, but you’re the most sadistic bastard we know.” They said, “If you win, you get $1,000.” I said I’d fight my grandmother for $1,000. But she’d have beaten me. …

BLACK BELT: Did anything out of the ordinary happen before the bout?

Gene LeBell: Well, they did a bait-and-switch. I thought I’d be facing Beck, an amateur fighter, but they put in Milo Savage, a great boxer with a wrestling background.

BLACK BELT: Did that bother you?

Gene LeBell: Not really. I’m no mental giant, so I viewed it as more of a challenge: The tougher your opponent is, the better you look if you beat him. The only thing that bothered me was what happened later — instead of boxing gloves, he wore what amounted to speed-bag gloves with metal inside.

BLACK BELT: The fight was held in Salt Lake City. Why not Los Angeles, where you were based?

Gene LeBell: They tried to get it in LA, but the California Athletic Commission said no because it was against the law. They said it would be categorized as a duel. We ended up in Utah.

BLACK BELT: What was the lead-up to the bout like?

Gene LeBell: The day before, they told me to go to the offices of a big TV network in Salt Lake City to see a guy who did a sports show. The host was obviously for the boxer, who was from Salt Lake City. During the interview, he was articulate and used every two-liner he could to put me down, but I wasn’t sharp enough to say anything. Then he asked, “How are you going to win?” I said, “I’m going to strike him, freeze his body and hammer him into the ground.” Of course, I was showboating. My manager told me to stop fooling around. Then I said, “I’ll leave him in the ground until summer, defrost him and pull him out, then choke him out.”

The host said, “Those chokes don’t work … show me.” I snatched him, choked him out and dropped him on his head. He dropped the mic, and I picked it up and said: “Our commentator went to sleep. I guess he’s quitting. Now it’s the Gene LeBell Show! Come to the arena tomorrow night and watch me annihilate, mutilate and assassinate your local hero because one martial artist can beat any 10 boxers.” The place sold out — they all wanted to see me get killed.

BLACK BELT: You won in the fourth round, right?

Gene LeBell: Yes. When I choked him out, the ref, who was also the doctor, didn’t know how to resuscitate him with katsu. After he’d been out for 20 minutes, my coach went in and revived the guy. The next morning, the newspaper headlines said, “The Savage Was Tamed.”

BLACK BELT: Was there a big reaction in the martial arts world?

Gene LeBell: There was because — it sounds like I’m blowing my own horn, and I don’t mean to — I represented all the martial arts. I never said I was doing only judo or karate or kenpo. I never said one art is better than the others. They’re all good. You should learn everything. You’re not a complete martial artist unless you do everything.

BLACK BELT: Why

MMA’s Deliberate Southpaws: Bruce Lee’s Jabs vs. Boxing’s Power Punches

In the combat sports, a dilemma beginners face remains a point of contention even for the more experienced: Should you stand with your strong side to the rear or in front?

Typically, beginners choose their leads by emulating what they see or adopting the advice of their first coach. Boxing has a tradition of taking right-handed fighters and placing them with their left side forward. Roughly 90 percent of all boxers adopt the left-side-forward stance, and that matches the percentage of right-handers in the general population.

In MMA and other combat arts, there are differing schools of thought. (Bruce Lee’s influential observations come to mind immediately.) That leads to a higher percentage of right-side-forward leads. In fact, MMA competition demonstrates a significant change from boxing doctrine. Instead of 90-percent orthodox stances, it’s about 60 percent. Should we conclude that there are more left-handers in MMA than in boxing or the general population? Turns out the answer is no — the distribution is roughly the same. What we have instead are “deliberate southpaws.” I confess to being one of them.


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Before explaining this choice, let’s look at why placing the strong hand to the rear became the norm. In the 18th century, the act of hitting another human being was turned into a science. The lead arm was held somewhat extended in front of the body as one might hold a foil or quarterstaff. This extended lead arm acted as both a defensive tactic — “Stop right there!” — and a range finder — “Methinks he’s close enough to poleax with a powerful windup of my mighty arm.”

The jab was not a go-to weapon in the arsenal. Instead, fighters circled one another, looking to unload powerful straights and swings primarily from the rear arm. With that in mind, placing the strong hand/arm to the rear for the windup made sense.

The advent of boxing gloves — then called “mufflers” — gave fighters with an entrenched strong rear hand an even greater impetus to keep it there. The mufflers made knockouts harder because of their cushioning effect, and the case for keeping the strong hand to the rear became even more compelling because a greater windup was now a necessity.

When the jab developed in emulation of the fencer’s foil, boxing changed but stances did not. The jab was and is essentially a foil looking to stab and spear with precision. If the boxer were to truly mimic the fencer, he’d place his coordinated side forward just like fencers wield the foil with their dominant hand. Ninety percent of fencers hold their foil in their right hand. They prefer the coordinated hand forward because they’re looking to strike with precision.

Boxers accepted the jab as a foil substitute, but why didn’t they adopt the coordinated stance-shift? Again, the answer lies in the glove — it’s hard to knock out an opponent when you have gloves on. Boxers erred on the side of power and kept the strong-side windup as their mainstay.


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Which brings us back to MMA. Why are there so many deliberate southpaws? There are two answers. First, there are many athletes who were wrestlers, grapplers or Brazilian jiu-jitsu players before they transitioned to MMA, and, as a rule, shooting (seeking takedowns with leg shots) is taught with the coordinated side forward (usually the right side). So when it came to striking, many of these grapplers adopted a southpaw stance to stay as close to their comfort-zone stance as possible.

The second reason: MMA gloves are far lighter than boxing gloves, kickboxing gloves and muay Thai gloves. Having lighter gloves means less power is needed to deliver damage. With that said, light gloves allow for jabs that can land as heavy as a cross in standard boxing and enable the less-powerful hand to have the benefit of the windup. Light gloves put power back into both hands, and rather than the lead hand being a feeler, defensive tool or point scorer, both hands have KO power. This equalizing nature of light gloves allows grapplers to shoot in with their coordinated side forward. Therefore, we see more deliberate southpaws letting go of a stance that’s now an artifact of a rule set tailored to a different era.


About the Author:
Mark Hatmaker is a Knoxville, Tennessee-based practitioner of boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu and muay Thai and the founder of Extreme Self-Protection. He is also the author of…

Learn 3 Grappling Techniques From UFC Star Chael Sonnen

Chael Sonnen isn’t your typical politician. For one, he actually answered our questions. But more important, the All-American wrestler from Oregon taught us some of the best tricks from his playbook.

Despite his reputation as one of the UFC’s loudest stars, he doesn’t have a bad word to say about any martial art or training. We hope you’ll enjoy his interview with Lito Angeles, a Southern California-based police officer, mixed martial artist and author of Fight Night: The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Mixed Martial Arts.

—Jon Sattler

Lito Angeles: I read that you started wrestling at a very young age.

Chael Sonnen: I come from a family of wrestlers—my father, my uncles, my cousins were all very good. I begged my dad to get me into wrestling, but he wanted me to do karate or boxing. Finally, he let me wrestle when I was 9.

Angeles: Did you wind up doing any karate or boxing?

Sonnen: I got into boxing later, but not then.

Angeles: And you stayed with wrestling all the way to the collegiate level, right?

Sonnen: Yes. I wrestled through high school and got a scholarship to the University of Oregon. In 2001 I graduated from college and was working out at a gym in the back of a car lot. There was one mat and nothing else, but Randy Couture and Dan Henderson worked out there every day. It was an hour and a half from where I was living, and I made the drive every single day to wrestle with them. We were all trying to make the Olympic team. They let me in, and it was the three of us. After college, I went back to training with them, and they were wearing MMA gloves. I just put on a pair of gloves and continued practicing.

Angeles: Does that mean you recommend wrestling as the best foundation for MMA?

Sonnen: Well, it has to be some kind of grappling. There’s a statistic: 100 percent of fights start standing up, and 80 percent of them end up on the ground. Jiu-jitsu and wrestling have done really well in MMA, but I don’t know that any form of grappling has been proven to be better.

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The grass always seems greener—I wish I knew more of other disciplines than wrestling, while other fighters probably wish they knew more wrestling. I wish more judo practitioners participated in MMA.

Angeles: Why?

Sonnen: Jiu-jitsu and catch wrestling are well-represented. All three styles of wrestling, from collegiate to Greco-Roman to freestyle, are, too. I know judo is a good, competitive sport. I wish there was more judo in MMA so I could see how it stacks up.

Angeles: After a student develops a grappling base, do you recommend muay Thai or boxing—or something else?

Sonnen: I’d say boxing. Muay Thai is good, bit it’s very hard to practice. There aren’t a lot of muay Thai guys around—it’s not in high schools or colleges or the Olympics—so it’s hard to find guys to practice with. Elbows are effective, but you can’t do them in practice without hurting someone. Same with knees. With boxing, however, you can put on the gear and find a partner, and it seems to do well in MMA.

Angeles: But then you give up kicks. …

Sonnen: Kicks aren’t as effective in fighting. If you land one, great. You can do good things with it. But kickboxing had to put in a rule that you had to kick a guy three times per round or you’d lose a point. The reason was, guys quit kicking. They just boxed because boxing is more effective. With that said, I spend the majority of my time doing kickboxing and muay Thai. But if I was mentoring a young fighter, I’d tell him to spend more time on boxing. That doesn’t mean I would ignore kickboxing—you still need to learn the defenses—but in stand-up, it’s hard to beat good, solid boxing.

Angeles: How is muay Thai boxing different from Western boxing?

Sonnen: The big difference is head movement. In muay Thai, there’s not a ton of head movement. You use your foot to get the guy off-line, then you step out and sweep his leg to off-balance him. In boxing, you just shift out of the way and use that momentum to come right in and attack. Head movement is so important, especially when you’ve got those little 4-ounce gloves on. If you just land one shot, you can break the guy’s nose, open a cut or knock him out.

Angeles: Does knowing wrestling and boxing cover all the bases with respect to technique, or should a person add other arts like karate or sambo?

Sonnen: I would never close the door. …

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